It’s starting to feel like spring may just sneak up on us finally here in the PNW, and I have started planning trips it the parks of Portland for my annual spring bulb hunt. Since many a confused bulb has already come up and bloomed by the end of January, there may not be much to see in this theme. However I was reminded that when traveling, one of the best and for the most part free activities you can do in any city, is enjoy it’s public parks. And you don’t just wait for spring. I find any park has it’s seasonal stages that still just make it beautiful no matter what time of year, a place to seek refuge from urban sprawl or just be.
The UK and Ireland have some amazing public parks. They are grand affairs that can go on for miles. But there are also many hidden places, small neighborhood parks that offer a great place to sit, read, think and just be. And if you are very clever and have a portable hammock, you may find a place to hide. Don’t get caught.
I have tried to always live in a port town. Over the years most places I have been were either a bay port (San Francisco) or a river port (Portland OR). I have tried living inland and quickly found it to be torture. Just too much open space without a large body of water is not the right place for me. Port towns have a great deal of vibrant community and exposure to all things brought into port. However, culture and happenings can create a very vibrant buzz that sometimes can be a bit much, and you need a refuge and one that preferably includes green. When visiting another port town like Glasgow last season, I hit the ground running after 20 hours of flying and airports, desperate for walks and parks. I also needed to get my bearing in this great city. So, I got got the map app( and the Mophie battery pack) and started walking the Clyde in the very early morning hours filled with fog and seagulls. The fog left fairly quickly, the seagulls not.
Glasgow has quite a few large, robust park sites. Most cities with rivers have riverside parks and walkways. Off the Clyde the first major large park I hit was Glasgow Green, a very large expanse with the People’s Palace featured. I spent a good amount of time hanging around the fountain, and then decided I just wasn’t done with the Clyde. Then I just started wandering the Clyde. I think with park exploration, you can make an effort to go to the main famous parks in any town, when I lived in San Francisco, I knew every inch of Golden Gate Park, or so I thought. But the best parks are sometimes the ones less trodden so to speak, or the less glamorous ones that only the locals know about. Plus I like rivers, who doesn’t.
Don’t forget to download the Glasgow Walking app in iTunes
My other favorite parks in Glasgow were:
Kelvingrove and the River Kelvin area
Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace
River Clyde Side Parks
By the end of the first day I had covered half the city in just walking Clyde side and West and North West ends connecting parks. I then went in search for a tea house as I was dead tired and the jet lag finally caught up.
Tea for Travelers
After my many walks in Glasgow, I kept finding tea time to be a great break before an evening jaunt. My favorite tea places were off the path, the best being The Hidden Lane Tea Room. I must say that the clotted cream and scone was amazing, especially when you are an American and well, sadly people in America just don’t get how to make real scones and clotted cream. Ours are like a cross breed of biscotti and scone. This place has a great fun eclectic feel and the staff are great and upbeat.
You can find them at:
The Hidden Lane (Argyle Court)
1103 Argyle Street
Edinburgh, not to be left behind, has parks and bayside areas for leisure. Edinburgh can be quite foreboding to a newcomer and getting used to the flow of the city can be tackled fairly well by connecting up the parks. When I visit, I usually use the castle as a guide, how can you not, and follow the wynds and narrows. You get lost pretty easily, but can always find your way out. That’s part of the charm. However if you take a parks walk day, and connect up the parks, you will get to know where you are fairly quickly. The park at Holyrood large and usually filled with people during the summer months, can feel overcrowded at peak times, so finding smaller areas to stretch out a bit can be much more intimate.
West and East Princes Street gardens are a much better way to walk down Princes street I found. Many people go to the capitol to shop and that’s all well and good, but I would much rather take in a bit of green while getting to a destination. The easy stroll here allows you to still see the city’s great architecture but have the scent of some earth and loam while strolling. Inverleith Park is a bit north of the main city with wild wetlands feel going on with it’s marsh and good trails. A great place to take a piece and eat under a tree. You are still near the city, but you have plenty of leisure space with playing fields and pitches. The Botanical Gardens are near and if you can connect up with the Water of Leith, a green corridor area you can get a few miles in for a walk.
Dublin is new to me, so I have been researching the parks there in serious anticipation. Getting off a flight from Amsterdam I will be chomping at the bit to walk some of these parks. I like parks that you can just happen upon or are a part of a community. Blessington Street Basin looks like one of those idyllic spots that make you just want to live in the neighborhood. Now I am a sucker for roses, and any town that has rosegarden is a place that must be visited. The rose gardens at St. Anne’s Park are a sight to see and smell.